The branch can now report the results of its industrial action ballot on the NJC pay offer for 2023-24.
- In our largest employer (the largest by far), West Sussex County Council, members voted for strike action with a 76% YES vote. However, the turnout of members who voted was 34%, less than the government’s mandatory participation rate of 50% for a strike ballot to be lawful;
- The branch balloted members in 58 separate employers in West Sussex (this is because some schools are treated legally as separate employers, as are all academy schools);
- We got over the government’s 50% participation thresholds in 18 employers, and were under the 50% threshold in 40;
- However, of these 18 employers the largest was a small academy chain with 67 members. Most of the rest were individual schools with less than 20 members;
- None of the national academy chains in West Sussex achieved over 50% participation in the ballot.
The results will be disappointing for many members who were determined we should receive a pay rise this year and not another pay cut. The results show the challenges UNISON still faces engaging our members on crucial issues like pay. The average turnout across all employers nationally was 31%.
Only 2 larger councils in England and Wales got over the 50% line: Lambeth in Greater London and Knowsley in the North West. Some smaller councils did – including Chichester and Horsham in the South East – but with far fewer numbers of members.
We are however making progress. The NJC ballot in 2021 saw a national turnout of 14%. This has now more than doubled to 31%.
UNISON’s national committee which looks at NJC pay has met and looked at the prospect of taking successful industrial action based on these ballot results. The NJC Committee agreed to await the ballot results from our sister union Unite, whose ballot closes at the end of July, before confirming publicly our agreed next steps.
The branch made a huge effort to engage with members before and during the ballot period:
- Phone banking (i.e. speaking to or leaving messages for) 3,000 members;
- Sending out regular news by email;
- Providing detailed, locally-tailored information on the pay offer;
- Holding member meetings, both physically and online;
- Making a series of video updates;
- Giving an online presentation of the NJC offer and posting the video online.
Thanks go to everyone who worked on this ballot delivering the above activity (reps, members, branch officers and branch-employed staff), and thanks go to all branch members who took part in the vote.
We now look to build on this level of activity and engagement for the pay claim for 2024-25 which will be submitted later in 2023.